We oppose the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties is highly concerned by the potential impact on people’s civil liberties that would arise from the government's Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill. The control orders envisaged by the Bill are obviously counter to a large number of the rights protected by the NZ Bill of Rights Act, while the procedure used to impose a control order falls far short of the guarantees to a fair trial in that same Act.

The purpose of the Bill is to impose controls on returning New Zealanders who the government suspects of engaging in terrorism-related activities while overseas, where there is insufficient evidence to charge them with crimes under New Zealand law.

The orders can cover a wide range of activities and can be extremely invasive. For example, they include limits on movement, communications with others, disclosing or receiving information, use of technology, buying or selling property, and engaging in specific activities in respect of their work, and recreation. They can further include requirements to report to the police regularly, submit to electronic monitoring, and to allow police to monitor/search their house, workplace, equipment, internet usage, etc. The control orders can go far beyond the types of conditions imposed on people on parole and even the prisoners in our jails. In other words, they empower the state to act in an extremely intrusive, punitive and authoritarian manner in circumstances where they lack the evidence to even bring a prosecution, much less secure a conviction.

We particularly condemn the government’s intention to use secret evidence (evidence hidden from the accused) when deciding whether to make a control order. We have spoken against secret evidence in the past as it is unjust, and wish to see the use of it stopped rather than extended. This practice has also led to similar control orders being rejected in the UK courts and in other countries. We find no comfort in the Green Party's compromise to provide a special security-cleared advocate to hear the secret evidence on the accused's behalf.

We note that the government's security forces (including the Police and SIS) already have a large range of powers to impose surveillance on people when it can be justified, and suggest that this could be done without the need to create draconian new laws. Further services can be offered to returnees to help them reintegrate into New Zealand society without the need to imposed forced re-education. If an extradition request is received from a country where the person is alleged to have committed a crime, we would expect the government and courts to consider the request properly, and if the person commits a crime after returning to New Zealand, would expect to see them prosecuted in the normal manner.

We oppose this Bill as it stands and fail to see how it could be modified to make it acceptable in a free and democratic rights-based society. Accordingly we recommend its withdrawal.